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Biographies
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Sacramento County

 

BISHOP THOMAS GRACE

One of the most noble acts of abnegation of which the human soul is capable is the renunciation of the pleasures of the world, and worthy of the highest reverence is the man or woman, who, actuated by the necessity for the administration of divine love and mercy to a wandering people, answers the appeal of the spirit. In the life of Bishop Grace, whose diocese embraces the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament of Sacramento, are exemplified those qualities so essential to the sustainment of the role to which he has been assigned and throughout his ministerial service his conduct has evidenced his intensity of belief and his fitness for his high calling.

A native of Ireland, Bishop Grace was born August 2, 1841, in Wexford, where he spent his early youth. His father, James 'Grace, a merchant, was of Norman lineage, being a descendant of Raymond le Gros, who lived in the twelfth century. He married Miss Ellen Armstrong, of Irish birth. Mr. and Mrs. Grace never came to America, preferring to spend their last years in the old country among the friends whom they had known and loved so long. Thomas Grace received his preliminary education in the private schools of his home section and having decided to enter the priesthood, was placed in St. Peter's Seminary under the tutelage of Bishop Furlong. In 1862 he entered All Hallows College, Dublin, distinguishing himself by his earnest spirit and rapid mastery of the technical details which formed a necessary part of his curriculum. Upon being ordained in 1867 he made preparations for his journey to California, leaving Queenstown in 1867 on the steamer Aetna and arriving at his destination eleven days later. Coming to California, he took charge of a newly established parish at Red Bluff, Tehama county, where he erected the Convent of Mercy, and two years later removed to a charge in Humboldt county. In 1869 he was transferred to Carson City. Nev., and in 1871 became assistant to Father Dalton at Grass Valley, Cal., remaining in this charge four years. In 1875 he became pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Marysville, Cal., officiating seven years prior to his removal to Sacramento in 1882. Here he was given charge of St. Rose's parish and continued there until 1896, when he was exalted to the bishopric. In sorrow, sickness and death, he has comforted his flock by his tender compassion, divine in its close association with the source of all love, and his faithful service has greatly endeared him to his people, who feel themselves fortunate, indeed, in having for their spiritual leader a man so unselfish, so representative of the great character which he seeks to glorify.

A brief history of the Catholic church in the Sacramento Valley is very fitting in connection with this concise biographical mention.

"A matter of first care among Catholic families in settling down to live in a new center is to find out what opportunity will be afforded them to practice their religion and to give their children a Christian education. Hence, an outline of the work of the church in the Sacramento valley thus far, with a summary account of its present status therein, will undoubtedly be useful to those about to come to live in this far region, and not without interest for those who already are so far blessed by living here. We are arrested by the name of this beautiful valley, Sacramento, a sacred and beautiful name, which recalls to us the symbol of Christian charity, the last supper, and its perpetuation of Divine love in the blessed sacrament. Whilst the missionaries named their other conquests in California in honor of one or the other of the saints, how meet that the fairest of California's fields, with its lordly river, later on that its chief city, and later still that within that fair city the principal church, in point of architectural style and in the number of worshipers, should be dedicated to Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar, under the comprehensive name of Sacramento.

"From the early part of 1850, when Father P. A. Anderson, a Dominican priest, arrived in Sacramento to form a nucleus church, the growth of Catholicity has been well in proportion with the rapid development of the capital city and the country tributary to it. A small building on L street between Fifth and Sixth served for a time as a chapel. Then Governor Peter H. Burnett gave a deed to Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Allemany for the property where stands the present postoffice building. On this site three structures were in turn erected. Saint Rose's, the last of these, was in use until 1887. Father Anderson died of typhoid fever in the fall of 1850 and his work was taken up by Rev. John Ingoldsby. October 29, 1854, the corner-stone of St. Rose's Church was laid. All that remains of St. Rose's now, except fond memories, is its bell, which is daily heard from the turret of St. Francis' Church, still calling the faithful to prayer. When the corner-stone was opened, on excavating for the foundations of the postoffice building, among other interesting finds were copies of the daily and weekly Sacramento Union.

"As the gold mines increased in number Sacramento became a mission center not only for the scattered populations entering the valley, but for much of the mining country as well. In 1853 Marysville received its first resident priest and from that as a center the various surrounding territories and mining districts were visited as often as possible. Archbishop Allemany then had jurisdiction of the territory and Christian pioneer work progressed remark- ably well. In 1861 the population had so far increased that Rev. Eugene O'Connell was consecrated bishop and sent from Rome as vicar apostolic of that vast country lying between the thirty-ninth and forty-second degrees of latitude, Nevada in the east to the Pacific in the west. Dr. O'Connell had but four priests to minister to the spiritual wants of the gold seekers and other residents of that vast region. He lived in Marysville, as Sacramento was then under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of San Francisco. His advent marked the beginning of an area of great prosperity for Catholicity. Ten years later found that apostolic man with thirty able priests engaged in work in the same territory. In 1868 the vicariate attained such organization as to be constituted a diocese by Pope Pius IX, called the diocese of Grass Valley. The arduous work, with the advancing years of Bishop O'Connell, compelled him to apply for a coadjutor. Father Patrick Manogue, then pastor of Virginia City, was in 1880 appointed to the office with the right of succession and was consecrated bishop in St. Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco, in 1881. When the pioneer bishop resigned his see in 1884, it was to Bishop Manogue that the care of the diocese passed and he immediately took up the responsibility of its government.

"Of the many priests who ministered in Sacramento in these eventful years one lately called to his reward. Rev. Patrick ScanIan, is especially well remembered today. At his invitation the Brothers of the Christian schools came here in August, 1876. The thousands of boys who have since passed through that educational institution, established by his energy and erected at Twelfth and K streets, have good reason to cherish his memory, along with the memory of the Brothers, with whom many happy school days were spent. St. Joseph's Academy, conducted by the Sisters of Mercy, was likewise made a fount of polite learning for young ladies. In 1886 the Episcopal see was transferred from Marysville to Sacramento. Five years previous Rt. Rev. Thomas Grace was sent to take up a portion of the work of the church. When Bishop Manogue came to Sacramento to reside Father Grace was appointed rector of St. Rose's pro-cathedral. On undertaking the work of building the present stately cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament Bishop Manogue found, through the many friends that Father Grace had made during his years of residence here, generous supporters for the worthy cause. The making of Sacramento the cathedral or mother church of Northern California marked a high step forward in affairs Catholic. From that to this, the development of the good cause has been marked. Since 1886 Catholics look to Sacramento not only as the capital of this resourceful valley and of the entire state, but also as the center of Catholicism for all Northern California and Nevada.

"The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, begun in 1886 and dedicated in 1889, is in the later Italian style of architecture. It was built under the direction of that architect and scholar, Bryan J. Clinch, whose death occurred in Oakland after the San Francisco fire in 1906 and whom to know was to revere. The elegant proportions of the structure, its majestic dome rising to a height of over two hundred feet, its classic arches and arched ceiling set in frames of varied frescoes, the harmony of due proportions in dimensions, the storied windows, rare paintings and the statuary it contains, endear both the structure and its venerable builder to Sacramento citizens, irrespective of creed or class. There is no public building in the city that is more visited by strangers. Its delicate spire, surmounted by a golden cross, that rises to a height of two hundred and sixteen feet, meets one's eye for miles outside of the city and is visible long before the home of the Camellia itself comes into view. Its tower clock, with massive dials and sonorous chimes, lends much to the public use as well as to the elegance of the structure. The building is cruciform, 208x114, being by far the most spacious church in California as well as the most elaborate and ornate in design. After a life of toil Bishop Manogue had the crowning consolation of seeing his latest church and residence completed and financed before called by God to render his account.

"Twelve months after the death of the Rt. Rev. Bishop, Rev. Thomas Grace received his letters of appointment to the vacant see of Sacramento and was consecrated June 16, 1896. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1867 at All Hallows College, Dublin, and immediately afterward came to California to do priestly work. During his administration much has been done materially and spiritually for the advancement of religion in the city and country tributary to Sacramento. Churches and schools have multiplied until almost every fair-sized town in the valley has a resident priest and there are many with two. Beautiful buildings are replacing the smaller structures, whose ever open doors elevate many a worldly heart from earth to heaven. It may truly be said that the Catholic Church is so scattered in this expansive valley that all who desire may avail themselves of its privileges. The four priests by whom the work was begun are now replaced by almost sixty. The Sacramento that possessed only a chapel fifty years ago today has six churches and as many chapels, attended by ten priests. Under the guidance of the Sisters of Mercy in 1904 the church took up the care of homeless children in the beautiful Stanford mansion on Eighth and N streets. The same gentle hands soothe the sick and dying in the various hospitals of the city and county, as well as in their own. The daughters of St. Francis have come in to carry on their specific work, teaching. Catholic schools to the number of five in the different sections of the city have been erected and are maintained by Catholic generosity, so that boys and girls may be sent to breast the world secured not only in secular knowledge, but likewise in the principles of morality and their Christian faith. The same forces, fidelity and zeal of bishops, priests and people that accomplished this much, under Divine guidance, are not exhausted, but invigorated by the work to renewed effort for still greater advances. Now that the material side of the Catholic movement is substantially provided for, the energy of all can be more effectually devoted to its central feature, the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ in all of its original simplicity and fullness.

 

Source:
History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011